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Judge: Richard D. Bennett
Court: United States District Court for the District of Maryland (Baltimore County)
Plaintiff's Attorney: United States Attorney’s Office in Baltimore
Description: Baltimore, Maryland criminal defense lawyer represented Defendant charged with conspiracy, and for illegally exporting firearms and ammunition from the United States to Nigeria without obtaining the required licenses from the U.S. State Department.
From at least November 2017 until July 19, 2019, Godlove Nche Manchoe, age 44, of Bowie, Maryland, and his co-conspirators agreed to export firearms, ammunition and other military-type items in violation of the federal smuggling statute, the Arms Export Control Act and other export laws. Manchoe participated in meetings of the conspirators, both online and in person, including in the basement of co-conspirator Tamufor St. Michael’s residence, where the conspirators, including Manchoe, also reloaded ammunition, assembled firearms, and wrapped various items for overseas shipment. Manchoe also donated and forwarded funds received from other co-conspirators to St. Michael, to be used towards the purchase of ammunition and/or weapons in furtherance of the conspiracy.
As detailed in his plea agreement, in December 2018, a shipping container, with a 1989 Toyota truck inside, was delivered to the street outside St. Michael’s residence for the conspirators to use to export the firearms, ammunition and other items. St. Michael and other co-conspirators then loaded the container, secreting weapons, ammunition and other military-type items inside the truck and multiple compressors. The container was sent to the Port of Baltimore for export, departing on January 17, 2019, with a destination of Onne, Nigeria. The conspirators caused the electronic export information (“EEI”) to be filed with the Department of Commerce listing the contents of the container as one Toyota Tundra truck, one 1989 Toyota truck, and “doors and frames.” The EEI also listed the U.S. Principal Party in Interest as an individual with the initials M.A.O. and a non-existent address. The telephone number listed for M.A.O. corresponded with a pre-paid cellular telephone.
Approximately one month later, the shipping container was ordered returned to the Port of Baltimore and on May 20, 2019, law enforcement personnel in Baltimore unsealed the container and examined its contents. In addition to the trucks and what appeared to be the contents of an old schoolhouse, the conspirators had concealed firearms, ammunition, rifle scopes, and other items in duffle bags placed in the trucks and in heavily wrapped packages inside sealed compressor units, in the shipping container. In all, law enforcement recovered from the shipping container 38 firearms, 28 of which had obliterated serial numbers. The guns included sniper rifles, SKS assault rifles (some with bayonets), other rifles and several handguns. There were 44 high-capacity magazines, two rifle scopes and over 35,000 rounds of ammunition, as well as military-type items, including boots, pepper spray, zip-tie style handcuffs, hydration packs, and other items.
Six other members of the conspiracy pleaded guilty to their involvement in the conspiracy. In April, Judge Bennett sentenced Tse Ernst Bangarie and Edith Ngang each to 46 months of incarceration and an additional three are awaiting are awaiting sentencing. A jury convicted three other members for the conspiracy, transportation of firearms with obliterated serial numbers, and smuggling following a jury trial in May 2022. Judge Bennett has sentenced two of those individuals, Eric Fru Nji and Wilson Nuyila Tita, to 63 months of incarceration and the third, Wilson Che Fonguh, is awaiting sentencing.
United States Attorney Erek L. Barron commended HSI, the ATF and DCIS for their work in the investigation. Mr. Barron recognized the U.S. Department of Commerce, Office of Export Enforcement; the U.S. Department of State, Diplomatic Security Service; the Naval Criminal Investigative Service; and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service for their contributions to the investigation. U.S. Attorney Barron thanked Assistant U.S. Attorney Kathleen O. Gavin, who is prosecuting the case.
Outcome: Defendant was sentenced to 46 months in prison, followed by two years of supervised release.